The apartment industry has always utilized data to some degree. But the metrics used in the past were often those of a general variety that nearly anyone could access, including broad regional trends and basic submarket data.
While helpful on the surface, those data points didn’t help operators answer higher-level questions, such as whether certain amenities or upgraded finishes would help command premiums in a given submarket, or whether the psychographics of a specific area pointed to an uptick in potential renters.
Many of these deeper-rooted questions were something of a guessing game. But new technology-driven data has enabled operators to make smarter business decisions, as panelists recently discussed at the Florida Apartment Association session The Evolution of Performance Metrics: Changing the Multifamily Game.
Entrata Industry Principal Virginia Love moderated the session and alluded to the idea that, due to the ever-evolving tech presence in the industry, operators can capture more information than ever before. Operators have the capability to pull metrics from various sources and categorize them, organize them and create something of a one-stop shop to fuel advanced decision-making.
Mill Creek Residential, for instance, has created advanced models to help unearth key insights contained within the data. Justin Pardy, senior data analyst for Mill Creek Residential, said the process begins with surveying residents about their lifestyle needs and preferences, including their desires pertaining to work-from-home capabilities and communal spaces.
The company incorporates the results into a 360-degree view of the resident base—a master table containing all the known attributes of the resident base aggregated from all internal and external data sources. Mill Creek also builds a lifetime value model to help predict consumer behavior and better tailor messaging. The company utilizes a resident scoring system that helps in various ways, including when requesting referrals by favoring those coming from the higher-valued consumers. Pardy said the company uses data to improve processes for receiving and qualifying leads from ILS sources.
AMLI Residential is aiming to break paradigms and dated processes just because they represent the way things have always been done. Nicole Reed, area vice president for AMLI Residential, said the company advocates putting trust in the ever-changing data, even if it doesn’t tell the comfortable familiar story. She recommended using data to promote rather than punish, and emphasized that data should encourage curiosity among the team. It is the single-most important entity, she said, to explain the “why” behind many property outcomes.
As Love noted, the industry encountered something of a blank slate in 2020, when remote leasing platforms (self-guided tours, video tours, etc.), virtual events, contactless concierge services and new communication methods were rapidly implemented. Because most of these were brand new to organizations, no performance metrics existed, so it was something of a trial by fire.
That said, it presented the opportunity to collect data from the ground up, and forward-thinking operators obtained as much data as they could about resident preferences. While it assisted during the early days of the pandemic, it also helped set the blueprint for post-pandemic lifestyle preferences and enabled operators to tailor their strategies accordingly.
Data is gold in the apartment industry—but it doesn’t tell much of a story if not aggregated properly. Unlike the past, tools are now available to help organize metrics from several different sources into a single dashboard and enable teams to curate data-fueled decisions.
It is no longer a guessing game.